60x60 is an intriguing project that's put together annually by the collective Vox Novus. Its premise is disarmingly simple: composers are invited to submit works lasting 60 seconds or less, Vox Novus selects 60 compositions and releases them played back-to-back on CD. This release includes the winners from two years, 2006 and 2007. It's intriguing to hear how much the selection varies from year to year. The aesthetic of the two discs is so different that there must have been different panels of judges making the selections. In the 2006 compilation, given the variety of compositional possibilities, it's perhaps surprising that the works are more notable for their similarity than their diversity. Virtually all the composers sound like they felt compelled to cram as much sound and activity as possible into their 60 seconds, and the majority of the pieces have a manic quality. All but a few of the pieces are electro-acoustic, so the ones produced purely on acoustical instruments really stand out. Among the more distinctive pieces are Ann Cantelow's Memory of Loss for multiple theremin tracks; John Biggs' March of the Krumerhorns, for, you guessed it, krumhorn ensemble; and Morning Song by Stuart Hinds, an overtone singer capable of simultaneously producing unbelievably independent vocal lines. There's considerably more diversity and interest in the 2007 selections, both in medium (quite a few are non-electronic, and there are two plain old songs) and in the moods. Among the most memorable tracks are haunting electronic pieces by Brad Decker and Al Margolis; Journey to the Light by Tuan Hung Le, based in Vietnamese folk traditions; Andrea Vigani's sparkling Post scripta; and John Pitts' Nancarrowian 60 Second Fantasy VII. The terrific concept and the quality of many of the miniatures make this a CD that should be of interest to fans of new music.
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